A Maine prosecutor ordered the arrest this week of a 35-year-old woman who police believe endured a brutal domestic assault, the
Bangor Daily News reports.
The alleged victim was arrested under a state “material witness” law that lets the state arrest witnesses if they don’t respond to a subpoena. The idea is they have to post bail to get out of jail, making it more likely they’ll show up to testify.
But her lawyer Lisa Whittier says her client never got a subpoena in the first place, the Bangor Daily News reported. Her client also fully intended to testify against her alleged assailant, 45-year-old Robert Robinson, Whittier says.
“I’ve seen the material witness statute used, but never on a victim like this,” she told the paper on Friday. “It’s an abuse of power and further traumatizes victims who shouldn’t be traumatized.”
District Attorney Maeghan Maloney seemed to acknowledge that she could get some flak for arresting a victim. “Without a doubt it was a bad political decision, but it was the right decision to save her life and to protect the community,” she told the Bangor Daily News. “He is an incredibly dangerous person.”
Maloney told the Kennebec Journal that if the woman doesn’t testify Robinson could be freed since she’s the only witness to the alleged beating. He’s accused of beating her with a broomstick over the course of two days so hard that it broke. There were allegedly imprints on her body from where he’d beaten her with a belt. Police say he also dug a grave, which he then showed to her, the Kennebec Journal reported.
Victims of horrific abuse may end up refusing to testify against their abusers because they’re afraid of retaliation, but arresting victims is obviously controversial. It is not unheard of, though.
One judge in Tennessee also takes the dramatic step of having domestic violence victims arrested if they don’t show up in court, WSMV.com reported in April. That judge, Ben McFarlin, acknowledged that arresting victims could be harsh. But, he told WSMV, forcing them to come to court also connects them with resources to help them escape their abusers.
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